April 27, 2015

#04-010: Galileo, the Father of Science

Galileo Galilei

Note: Though the theory wasn't his, by championing the idea of the sun-centered solar system, Galileo advanced science and changed the way we see ourselves in the cosmos.

Get Ready: The earth goes around the sun, and not vice versa. Does it really matter? Does it change anything to know this? How?

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was an Italian scientist who worked in many fields: physics, math, engineering, astronomy, and philosophy. He was a true Renaissance Man. He gained many nicknames through the ages, but one of the greatest was simply: the Father of Science.

This is all the more surprising in that his main achievement was not his own thought, but simply independent confirmation of the idea of another person.

The Polish mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) had published a new theory in the year he died: that the earth goes around the sun, and not the other way around. This "Copernican Revolution" would shock the world: we were not at the center of things.

Copernicus died before his theory--based on mathematics--was proven. It was left for Galileo and Johannes Kepler (a student of Copernicus) to confirm his insight.

For this, Galileo used a "secret weapon": a telescope he had improved himself. With this he was able to view phases on Venus much like those of the moon, and observe four moons orbiting Jupiter. The former was only possible if Venus orbited the sun; the latter proved that not everything circled the earth.

The Roman Inquisition was a kind of trial court in the Roman Catholic Church, and in 1615 it said that any teaching of the earth going around the sun--including that by Galileo--was forbidden.

But in 1632 Galileo wrote his most important work, the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. The older system was the Ptolemaic, known as geocentrism (putting the earth or geos at the center). It was taught by Claudius Ptolemy, a Greek living in Egypt around 90-168. The newer was, of course, the Copernican system of heliocentrism (putting the sun or helios at the center).

For this act, Galileo was tried in court in 1633 and put under house arrest for the final nine years of his life, where he continued to work and write until his death.

The court also required Galileo to recant his support of heliocentrism. Popular legend says that after standing up and recanting, he turned away and said quietly, "Nevertheless, it moves"--"it" referring to the earth. The story may only be a legend, but it shows the spirit of Galileo in staunch support of scientific truth.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_Galilei

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. astronomy
  2. confirmation
  3. forbidden
  4. house arrest
  5. legend
  6. orbited
  7. recant
  8. Renaissance Man
  9. staunch
  10. telescope

  1. not allowed
  2. take back; apologize for saying something
  3. a made-up story that may contain some truth about a famous person
  4. the study of the stars and planets
  5. firm; strong; steadfast
  6. having to stay in one's home
  7. the act of proving something to be true
  8. went around, circled (as the moon does the earth)
  9. person skilled in many areas of learning
  10. a tube-like device with lenses inside, used for "seeing far" (the meaning of its name)

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for April 27, 2015

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